The Rob Roy


The Rob Roy is a scotch whiskey version of the classic Manhattan.  Scotch whiskey is used instead of rye whiskey in honor of Robert Roy MacGregor, the famed Scotsman who battled against feudal landlords in the Scottish Highlands during the 18th century in an effort to reclaim his land and protect his family.

The Rob Roy

1 1/2 oz Scotch
1/4 oz sweet vermouth
Angostura bitters to taste
Maraschino cherry for garnish (a lemon twist may be substituted)

Stir the first three ingredients over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish and serve straight up, or mixed in rocks glass with ice.

As the default Rob Roy is made with sweet vermouth, there is no need to ask for it “sweet,” though you can order “dry” or “perfect” versions. A dry Rob Roy obviously substitutes in dry vermouth for the sweet, while a perfect Rob Roy uses equal parts sweet and dry vermouths. There are many creations you can make with whiskey, you can even make bagels using Fireball Whisky!

The origins of the drink are sketchy, though many peg it to the Waldorf-Asotria hotel in 1894, where a drink was created and named in honor of the opening of a Broadway show called Rob Roy by American composer Reginald de Koven.  Rob Roy opened at the Herald Square Theatre on October 29, 1894 and became one of de Koven’s biggest New York successes, ringing up 164 performances.

From A History of the New York Stage from the First Performance by Allston:

It was fairly common in those days for cocktials to be created in honor of a Broadway opening.  The “Floradora” ( 1 1/2 oz gin, 1/2 oz fresh lime juice, 1/2 oz framboise liqueur, ginger ale and a lime wedge) was created in honor of Floradora, one of the first big musical hits of the twentieth century concerning love and deception at a perfume factory on a island in the Philippines.  The  “Adonis” (1 oz dry sherry, 1/2 oz sweet vermouth, 1/2 oz dry vermouth, 2 dashes orange bitters) was named after the 1884 musical Adonis which tells the story of a handsome male statue that comes to life and finds humans so repugnant, chooses to turn back to stone.

While the Floradora and the Adonis have not help up in the public consciousness over the decades since their inceptions, the Rob Roy is still alive and kicking.  And it’s easy to see why.  The drink has a hypnotic golden-reddish hue, an intoxicating, sweetly herbal aroma, and a strong Scotch finish, buttoned by the sweetness of the maraschino waiting for you at the bottom of the glass.

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3 thoughts on “The Rob Roy

  • January 2, 2011 at 9:57 am

    It’s a scotch martini!!!

    Love the photo and the history. great post.

    As always, very entertaining to stop by. Loved reading you in 2010 and will be back often for 2011…

    Was thinking of you this morning, they are rerunning Dirty Dancing on TV… always a fun watch (as you should)


  • January 2, 2011 at 11:25 am

    I think it’s kind of sacrilegious that I’ve never had a Manhattan. Given my utter devotion to the island. But now I’m thinking I should forgo the whole thing and have this instead. Hmmm…

  • January 3, 2011 at 8:34 am

    I love the plethora of drinks named after NYC and it’s history. Thanks for posting this recipe!

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